The conditions of incarceration have reduced me to dump of shrunken flesh and dried bones: Prof G.N. Saibaba

The court of Sessions Judge at Gadchiroli district on March 7, 2017 delivered a judgment convicting Prof. G.N. Saibaba for life imprisonment (along with Hem Keshavdatta Mishra, Prashant Rahi Narayan Sanglikar, Pandu PoraNarote and Mahesh Kariman Tirki. In addition, in the same case Vijay Nan Tirkiwas was given 10 years imprisonment).

The case was registered on March 5, 2014 and the judgement was given after three years and two days prosecuted under sections 13, 18, 20, 38, 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) read with Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code. Initially section 120B of IPC was invoked, withdrawn and finally re-invoked.

On September 12, 2013 the house (at that time Prof. Saibaba was staying in Delhi University Warden’s quarter Gawyer Hall, Delhi) search of Saibaba was undertaken by the Maharashtra Police with assistance from the Delhi Police. Later he was taken from Delhi and put in Nagpur Central Prison as undertrial.

There are several loopholes in the investigation that have been discussed in court. I am not going into that here, instead I would like to highlight the way my brother has been suffering due to his health issues, and how helpless we feel about the lack of action being taken.

At the Nagpur Central Prison, in the so called high security cell termed as “ANDA” cell, the space to move on his wheel chair isn’t sufficient.  The wheelchair (not provided by the jail authorities) is specially designed for his requirements. The monthly allowance sent (limited to Rs 3,000 per month) is used by him to buy newspaper, fruits etc. As his stomach is not permitting the jail food, he is living by buying fruit from the prison canteen. Books and magazines are supplied by family members.

At every visit, we are giving the medicines and every week our advocates at Nagpur also give medicines. However, the medicines provided to him are as per old prescription. For the last 14 months along with antibiotics, pain killers were regularly administered without any medical investigations and proper treatment.

My brother got affected with polio at the age of five and was declared 90 per cent disabled. Despite his physical challenges, he completed school, which he attending by crawling. With the care of family members and friends, his education was continued.  My father, myself and his friends used to take him to the college by bicycle.

After excelling in studies at undergraduate level, he cleared the entrance test conducted by the University of Hyderabad and completed Masters in English. Then he was awarded Ph.D by Delhi University. For his day-to-day activities – even to eat or drink water – he needs help and support.

He was suffering from cardiac problem for the past several years. He acquired additional health problems like stones in kidneys, gall bladder, left shoulder brachial plexopathy (due to mishandling at the time of his arrest) and suffering with severe back-ache due to abnormally curved spine (scoliosis) during his stay in the jail. Just before his conviction, doctors advised him to undergo surgery for removal of gall bladder stones within three weeks.  He could not undergo the surgery because of imprisonment. Very frequently he is suffering from fever and falling unconscious in jail.

Present health condition

So far, my brother was taken to Nagpur Medical College Hospital perhaps around thirty times. Tests were conducted, but no treatment was given so far. He fell unconscious many times in the cell. His left-hand is not functioning due to mishandling of police during his arrest. Since then he is performing all his activities throughout the day only with one hand.

While my brother was in Nagpur Central Jail as undertrial prisoner, the facilities available at Nagpur Medical College Hospital were not pertinent to treat his ailments. That’s why the Honourable High Court of Mumbai recommended the authorities to shift him to a private hospital in Nagpur for diagnosis and treatment.

Now, the jail authorities had scheduled surgery for the removal of stones in his gallbladder on July 16, 2018. This message reached my sister-in-law (wife of Prof. G.N. Saibaba) staying in Delhi late and she could not reach Nagpur.

We – our family members –are of the opinion that for my brother who is 90 per cent physically challenged, it is difficult for him without proper help and support to face the pre-operative and post-operative issues. Once operated, it will be more cumbersome for him to perform daily activities while in hospital and afterwards in jail. We were worried about the hygienic conditions that might prevail in the jail for post-operative patients. The proposed surgery will not alone cure his health since he is suffering from many other ailments. If surgery is done only for removal of gallbladder stones, then he needs to go for another surgery for the lump formed in the stomach during the conviction period in the prison. After the surgery even to go for toilet he must be lifted from the wheel chair since neither the hospital nor the jail cell has provision to enter the wash room with wheel chair. This will cause him more damage.

For this simple reason, he wants the presence of family members when admitted to the hospital for proper care and support, but not rejecting treatment proposal.

His recent letter dated July 27,, 2018 informed that since July 12, he is suffering from fever and vomiting.  He is just vomiting out whatever he is eating and is thus very weak. He is frequently falling unconscious. In 10 days or so he fell unconscious thrice. Earlier too this has happened.

During his earlier stint as undertrial prisoner, his left-hand muscles were damaged and now the pain has worsened; he is unable to withstand the pain and under duress he is taking sleeping pills at night.

In a letter, my brother wrote “I have been degraded by the circumstances of the 19th century prison environment to the level of an animal. I have lost my bodily integrity and human dignity. I have been also suffering from 19 serious aliments including that of life threatening heart condition. Acute pancreatitis, Anterior Horn Cell Syndrome, post-polio syndromes, Brachial plexopathy, etc.”

In another letter he narrated his deplorable condition “Inside the cell I cannot approach the toilet in my wheelchair. Two persons have to take me or hold me in my wheelchair to go for urine or defecation or for taking a bath. I have been reduced to “a cot ridden old man”. The conditions of incarceration have reduced me to dump of shrunken flesh and dried bones.”

My mother, aged 73 years, residing in Hyderabad along with me is unable to travel to Nagpur to meet my brother. As I am in Hyderabad for the last 20 years, we submitted several requests to Jail authorities requesting transfer of my brother from Nagpur Central Prison to Cherlapalli Central Prison, Hyderabad. On August 23, 2017 my brother wrote a letter to Inspector General of Prisons, Maharashtra seeking jail transfer. My mother, on November 16, 2017 sent a letter to Honourable Governor of Maharashtra requesting to transfer him to Hyderabad Jail.  My sister-in-law also sent a request on November 17, 2017 Honourable Governor of Maharashtra seeking transfer to Cherlapalli Jail, Telangana.

Several other letters are also submitted to various authorities for jail transfer which can be done as per existing laws and various judgments of honourable Supreme Court.

During the arguments on the bail plea application of Prof. G.N. Saibaba on August 9, 2018 at Nagpur High Court, the honourable bench issued an order stating that in case of admission of Prof.  Saibaba in a hospital, the same should be intimated to his wife a week in advance.

On June 28, 2018, the UN Rights experts Catalina Devandas (Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities) Michel Forst (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders), Dainius Pūras (Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health) and Nils Melzer (Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) urged India Government  “to release human rights defender Dr. G.N. Saibaba, a wheelchair user with severe disabilities whose health is deteriorating and who is reportedly being held in solitary confinement.”

Former Supreme Court Justice Mr. M. Katju in a letter addressed to the President of India on 4th July 2018 has also expressed his concern about life of Prof. G.N. Saibaba and quoted several judgments including the Supreme Court “Nanavati Case (1961) that the power of pardon under Articles 72 and 161 can be exercised even if an appeal is pending. And Kehar Singh vs Union of India (1988) a 5 judge bench of the Supreme Court held that in pardon proceedings the President (or Governor) can scrutinize the evidence, and come to a different conclusion from that of the Court”. Justice Mr. M. Katju also urged Honorable Governor of Maharashtra to pardon Prof. Saibaba on August 18, 2018.

The bail application for Saibaba on medical grounds is pending before the honourable High Court Bench at Nagpur. The Maharashtra State police repeatedly seeking continuous adjournments despite the degenerating health condition of Saibaba.

The special public prosecutor, filed three letters shared by Pune City Police, allegedly recovered from activists arrested under UAPA on June 6, 2018 in Elgaar Parishad case of Bhima Koregaon.  Among these arrested five activists, there is also Prof. Saibaba’s senior defence counsel Sri Surendra Gadling. The allegedly recovered letters are being used by the State to deny bail to Prof. G.N. Saibaba. These letters, so called “Maoist letters” purportedly addressing Senior advocate Surendra Gadling by Maoists which asks to apply Jail transfer of Prof. G.N. Saibaba. The prosecution desires to establish and brand Prof. G.N. Saibaba to have relations with Maoists.

From day of search of Saibaba’s house at Delhi, subsequent abduction and trial and after conviction, Prof. G.N. Saibaba and we family members are categorically condemning the State propaganda of branding him as “urban connect to Maoists”.  Now, not only Prof. G. N. Saibaba many human and civil right activists are being branded and arrested as urban connect to Maoists.

We request the Government of India to follow the rule of the land and natural justice and obey its own obligations on human rights. India is a signatory on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the Nelson Mandela Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

Prof. G.N. Saibaba worked for the rights of Adivasis as specified in the Constitution of India. The prosecution every time is bringing out some new things to deny bail to him. We once again appeal all the democrats, progressive people, intellectuals, professors and genuine patriots to raise their voice to help Prof. G.N. Saibaba to get justice.

Our Advocate met Saibaba a few days back in the Jail and informed this:

  • On 9th August Saibaba was taken for medical investigation and they are continuously pressurising for the surgery.
  • The Neurology Dept of Government Medical Hospital, Nagpur advised for regular physiotherapy of left hand (which is not available in prison) and referred to higher health institutes for tests like EMG and CV as they were not available.
  • The orthopedic dept. recommended for tandem transfer, the services of which was again not available in the hospital.
  • Cardiology department fixed September 3 for CT scan of heart.
  • On August 31, there will be CT scan of brain to test if there is any cyst in the brain.

(The narrative in this piece is by Prof. G. Ramadevudu, brother of Dr. G.N. Saiababa and the inputs are from both Dr Ramadevudu and K. Ravichander, Saibaba Release Committee.)

[The views expressed belong solely to the author, and may not reflect the opinions of the editorial team]

Cover photograph of Dr G.N. Saibaba (middle) courtesy Dr G. Ramadevudu

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